The SEA 2026 logo representing Seattle’s bid to become a host city for the FIFA World Cup in 2026 is displayed at Lumen Field in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The SEA 2026 logo representing Seattle’s bid to become a host city for the FIFA World Cup in 2026 is displayed at Lumen Field in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Seattle among cities selected to host World Cup in 2026

FIFA announces its selections Thursday for sites in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

  • Herald news services
  • Thursday, June 16, 2022 10:18pm
  • Sports

Herald news services

NEW YORK — A global spotlight will shine on Seattle again as the city learned Thursday it was selected to host FIFA men’s World Cup matches in 2026.

Soccer’s governing body made the announcement during a live broadcast from New York City. Seattle is one of 11 U.S. cities and 16 total that will be venues for the revamped 48-team tournament also taking place in Canada and Mexico.

Seattle is linked with Vancouver, B.C. as the only host cities in the Pacific Northwest. More details about the number of games and stage of the tournament will be released later, but it’s likely the Northwest will be the site of two sets of group games with a possibility of one or two knockout-round games, according to the initial North America bid committee presentation.

Having three countries host the tournament is a first for FIFA. The event, which attracts billions globally, will run the summer of 2026 with the final slated for July 12.

The upcoming 2022 men’s World Cup in Qatar was shifted to November because of the scorching temperatures in the country during the summer months.

FIFA’s selection committee formally visited Seattle last fall to evaluate its potential as a host city. A bid committee dubbed SEA 2026 pitched the region and its goal to ensure its site is inclusive whether that be accessibility, sustainability or humanitarian.

The Sounders drew the selection committee back to the city in May for the CONCACAF Champions League final, then the biggest soccer event ever held at Lumen Field. More than 68,000 people — including FIFA president Gianni Infantino — were in attendance for the club’s eventual 3-0 win against Liga MX side Pumas UNAM.

Highlights of SEA 2026’s vision still call for imagination. The Sounders announced plans for their first headquarters at Longacres in Renton that most recently was office space for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. While the Sounders will retain the original building structure, land will need to be cleared to build four fields, two with natural grass, with an expected unveiling in January 2024.

FIFA also requires grass for tournament matches. When the Washington Public Stadium Authority Bill (known as Referendum 48) passed in 1997 to build what is now Lumen, there was a provision that grass be installed. The Sounders currently play on turf but the grounds were fitted for grass for the Copa America in 2016 and FIFA was assured the same would happened for World Cup matches.

Seattle was snubbed when the World Cup was last held in the U.S. in 1994. The selection for 2026 will be the biggest sporting event Seattle has hosted.

Previous showcases ranged from Seattle hosting five NCAA men’s Final Fours, the first in 1949, and the 1990 Goodwill Games. The NBA (1974, 1987), WNBA (2017) and MLB (1979, 2001) held their respective All-Star Games in the city while the Special Olympics USA Games took over Seattle in 2018. Regionally, the 1998 PGA Championship was at the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, the 2002 NEC World Championship at Sahalee and the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay at University Place.

Atlanta, Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle and Kansas City, Missouri, were the newcomers among the 11 U.S. sites picked to host, while Baltimore, Cincinnati, Denver, Nashville, Tennessee, and Orlando, Florida, were left out.

Arlington, Texas; East Rutherford, New Jersey; Foxborough, Massachusetts, and Inglewood and Santa Clara, California, were the holdovers.

The U.S. selections included none of the nine stadiums used at the 1994 World Cup. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and Orlando’s Camping World Stadium were the only ones remaining in contention, and they were among the sites dropped in the final round.

New stadiums were selected in five areas used in 1994. AT&T Stadium in Texas replaced Dallas’ Cotton Bowl; SoFi Stadium in Inglewood took over for Pasadena’s Rose Bowl; and Levi’s Stadium instead of Stanford Stadium.

Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, and Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Masschusetts, replaced torn-down stadiums that were adjacent, Giants Stadium and Foxboro Stadium.

Orlando’s Camping World was dropped among existing 1994 venues. The Detroit area, where the old Pontiac Silverdome hosted games, was cut in 2018 and Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium was dropped after FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, dropped out. Washington’s RFK Stadium was used in 1994.

Chicago, which hosted the 1994 opener at Solider Field, refused to bid, citing FIFA’s economic demands.

Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, which hosted the 1970 and ‘86 finals and will become the first stadium in three World Cups, was selected along with Guadalajara’s Estadio Akron and Monterrey’s Estadio BBVA.

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